Scammer Foiled at Manzanita | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Scammer Foiled at Manzanita

A scammer tried to eat Manzanita's lunch

On Aug. 1 a person rang up Manzanita Grill at 1125 Ne Second Street to complain that they found a piece of plastic in their meal and requested a refund. Jade Sellers, the owner, got in touch with the caller, who claimed they paid in cash for their whole family while vacationing in Bend. Sellers said the caller was pleasant and she was amenable to refund them, but started having questions about the interaction throughout the call.

"I have a small crew; my husband works every day, and if he heard about this, he would have handled it on the spot immediately. So, I started to ask questions, because I was really surprised that I didn't hear about this," Sellers said.

click to enlarge Scammer Foiled at Manzanita
Courtesy of Generous Bite
A piece of plastic found in a meal was the premise of an alleged phone scam foisted on Manzanita Grill, located inside the Humm Kombucha Taproom.

Sellers asked what day they ate at her restaurant and what they ordered. They had good answers for everything, Sellers said, and convincingly told her what menu item she supposedly got and the time. But when Sellers agreed to refund them, some red flags rose.

"She just she kept making up reasons why she didn't want to give me any information and she's like, 'Well, do you do Zelle? Could you just Zelle me or Venmo me?'" Sellers said. "I said that unfortunately I just don't do business transactions like that. I need to keep record of it for my bookkeeper. So if I could mail you a check at your convenience, I would love to do that. And she just hung up. I called back immediately. And the number was just disconnected, boom, this number is no longer in service."

Sellers suspects she narrowly avoided a scam. Though she didn't discuss figures with the caller, she estimates that a refund for five or six meals would probably have cost her up to $120. The restauranteur didn't reach out to police, believing there's probably not much they could do. She's heard false complaints before, but this is the first time one came over the phone.

"Being in customer service and always wanting to make sure that your customers are happy most of the time, you're never going to argue with the customer. If they say something happened, you're just going to fix the problem right away," Sellers said.

Sheila Miller at the Bend Police Department said scams tend to go in waves. Last week BPD itself got wrapped up in a scam when someone claimed to be a BPD officer and threatened to arrest people if they didn't pay them over their failure to appear at a fictitious court date. The scammer used the names of real BPD officers and spoofed phone numbers to appear local.

"We get them from restaurants from time to time. More common ones that I've heard recently from restaurants or other businesses is somebody calling the business claiming to be the manager and telling them to take the money out of the till and put it into Zelle or a Bitcoin ATM," Miller said.

Individuals are also at risk for scams. Miller said someone local lost $9,000 after being called by someone who said they represented the lottery, and that they needed to pay taxes on their winnings before they could be released. Combating online or phone scams is a tall task for local police, who would have to do significant legwork to even know if the scammer is in their jurisdiction.

click to enlarge Scammer Foiled at Manzanita
Nick Youngson

"A lot of these incidents, it's hard to tell where the person who's doing the scamming is based. If it's over the phone, or over email, they don't have to be local, they might not even be in the country," Miller said. "It does take a lot of resources to try and sort out the IP addresses and all that stuff. So, it kind of depends if it's a local incident. Where it seems pretty clear that maybe this is a local person scamming, we have a better shot of doing that. But generally, I would say it tends to be more up to your bank to recoup funds that have been lost."

Miller said older people who are less familiar with the internet and banking apps tend to fall prey to scams, but that they've heard from victims of all ages. She encourages people to be cautious when interacting with an unknown person over the phone, and to never give anyone their personal or financial information. Sellers said the attempted scam won't impact her approach to customer service.

"I would pretty much handle it the same. I would still ask questions, I would still just try to solve the problem the same way," Sellers said. "If it was a real legitimate complaint, I would have ended up compensating the customer or would have went a different way. But I'm glad that they did hang up and that they didn't want to take my money that bad."

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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